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by Alex Palmer | February 23, 2016
Wellness incentives, particularly merchandise and wearables, may be widely embraced by the U.S. market, but globally there remains significant room for growth. This is among the findings of the Global Wellness Institute's new report "The Future of Wellness at Work 2016."

According to the report, which drew on a range of secondary research as well as the responses of 1,179 global workers, employer interest and spending on worker wellness has reached $40.7 billion globally, representing a steady increase over the past five to 10 years. The study points to a survey by the World Economic Forum and Boston Consulting Group, which identified at least 120 organizations worldwide that focus on workplace wellness and "the number has undoubtedly swelled since then," according to the report.

But while workplace wellness programs are proliferating, the report stresses that when looked at from a global perspective, interest in worker health has barely begun to take hold, with less than 9 percent of the global workforce enrolled in such programs. The report places "perks such as free massages, gift cards, prizes, or wearable devices," among the standard offerings of workplace wellness programs, but says that such programs are now primarily only reaching "those who live in industrialized countries or work for large, multinational firms."

As its title suggests, the report emphasizes how wellness in the workplace will change in the coming years, and touches on how incentives can play a role in this shift. It cites wearable devices and incentive programs as among the most popular platforms being tapped by employers to help enhance their workers' health, while pointing out that in the coming years, wellness will need to be viewed through a wider lens, taking into consideration the physical environment, personal needs, and impact of social/community relationships.

"Given how much of our time and livelihoods are shaped by our work," reads the report, "infusing our working environments with wellness will be beneficial not only to companies and workers, but also to our families and communities."